Montessori's perspectives on early childhood education were unheard of, even controversial, in her day. She began by observing consistent patterns of development and behavior in her students. Here are the fundamental beliefs that informed her educational philosophy.
The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.
During these formative years, children progress through a series of “sensitive periods,” unique windows of opportunity where the child is able to acquire knowledge without extreme effort or fatigue. Those same skills may be learned at a later time, but will then require greater effort on the part of the child.
Children learn by absorbing sensations from surroundings.
Children possess what Montessori termed an “absorbent mind.” The Montessori classroom is precisely designed to take full advantage of this formative period between the ages of three and six. Engaging in stimulating learning materials helps the child to classify and order information gathered from their environment.
Young children create themselves through purposeful activities.
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children respond to their natural tendency to work. The child’s innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving him opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult. As an aid to the child’s self-construction, individual work is encouraged.
Through work, the child develops concentration and joyful self-discipline.
Distinct Montessori curriculum areas and materials cultivate the children’s ability to express themselves and think with clarity; they are practical life, sensorial, mathematics, language and cultural studies (history, geography, science, and social studies). Within this framework of order, children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities.